Monday, 31 March 2014

April showers bring May flowers

Tulips bring welcome colour to the garden in April

There is lots to do in a garden in the Spring
The woods are full of fresh green leaves, sweet smells and bright wild flowers
Today is the first of April and after having played a few practical jokes and had some light relief it is probably a bit sort of cheesy but it is hard not to recite Robert Browning's (1812-1889) poem "Oh to be in England"
So here it is to refresh your memory .

Home thoughts from abroad

Oh to be in England
Now that April's there.
And whoever wakes in England
Sees,some morning,unaware,
That the lowedt boughs and the brusheood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

Well that is the first verse because it is only the first day and the second verse mentions May. We want to enjoy April now and the lovely light evenings.
When my Mum first came to stay with me in Italy it was March. She would tell me every day that she had to be back for the English spring. There was nothing like it in the whole world, she had to get back for it. I worked so hard to show her the delights of the Italian Spring, the thick, white cherry blossom, the carpets of pink and purple peach and apricot blossom, the magnolias, the Judas trees, mimosa, the jasmine, camelias and the beautiful lakes and hillsides. I did win her over in the end, especially as we had lots of cappuccinos and mushroom risottos on the way. A lot of our deep feelings of nostalgia probably come from what we grew to love as children.We were nearer the ground then, breathing in the heady smells, surrounded by birdsong while playing outside, delighting in the feel of the grass and the ferns and the  deep heady smells of the countryside.
These are some photos of my English Spring.
the Hambleden valley

April Fool's Day, Pesce d'Aprile

The first  day of April is known as April Fool's Day in Britain, and Pesce d'Aprile  April Fish day in Italy.. In Britain it is traditional to tell someone something wrong and make them believe it is the truth. My mum might have said to my Dad, ^Oh no! it's really late, it's 8-o-clock" when really it was only 7-o-clock, and then get him all worked up in a fluster and then laugh and say"April Fool ^. These sort of practical jokes never made him laugh as much as they did her,they had a different type of sense of humour. My first memory of being made an April Fool was when the nicest boy in my class told me that the hem of my skirt had come unstitched. Of course I looked down and tried to find the problem, only to have him quietly say ^April Fool^. I was about eight years old at the time and actually felt happy that he had picked me out. He then gave me a poem that said Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you".
My first experience of April Fool in Italy was having flour thrown all over me and then having to act as though it was great fun to go home on the bus covered in white powder.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) wrote an essay on April Fool's day and he reminds us that a little playing the fool is good for us .

April Fool's Day

The compliments of the season to my worthy masters and a merry first of April to us all! Beshrew the man who on such a day as this, the general festival, should affect to stand aloof. I love a Fool - as naturally as if I were of kith and kin to him. I have never made an acquaintance that lasted; or a friendship that answered; with any that had not some tincture of the absurd in their characters. the more laughable blunders that a man shall commit in your company, the more tests he giveth you, that he will not betray or overreach you. And take my word for this, reader, and say a fool told it you, if you please, that he who hath not a dram of folly in his mixture, hath pounds of much worse matter in his composition.


In Italy, Fish are a traditional symbol of the first of April, Pesce d'Aprile

Chocolate fish waiting to be eaten on April Fool's Day in Italy

Proper pleasant talking

Make time for a quick coffee break and a happy conversation

A little book of friendship

It's just another manic Monday...
It's a lovely sunny day, a whole new week before us and I'm sure a lot of us have already got a long to- do list, some things on it may be pleasant, some a burden, some a worry.
Make time for some proper pleasant talking. Sir Thomas More 1478-1535) had lots of things on his mind but this is what he said about finding time for friends.

A merry tale with a friend refresheth a man much, and without any harm lighteth his mind and amendeth his courage, so that it seemeth but well done to take such recreation. And St. Thomas saith that proper pleasant talking is a good virtue, serving to refresh the mind and make it quick and lusty to study again, where continual fatigation would make it dull and deadly.

So maketh time for a quick break, a cup of coffee, a chat or just read my blog and listen to The Bangles.... if you like 80s music...

The internet is making it possible to keep in touch with friends from all over the world

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Spring cleaning, pulizia di Primavera

These bright sunny days are ideal for Spring cleaning. In Italian it is known as pulizie di Primavera or sometimes pulizie di Pasqua, Spring cleaning or Easter cleaning. Our houses don't need so much Spring cleaning nowadays because with central heating we are able to wash curtains and bedding a Winter long. There is something about the fresh Spring air that makes you want to throw open all the windows and freshen up the paint work. Without getting too carried away it's always a good feeling to have your house clean and tidy but it is a never- ending job. Once you finish one task there is always another.
Waiting in a queue the other day I saw this  hand-written sign and I liked what it said because it made me think of sun- dappled woods. The shop keeper told me she loves inspirational sayings .
There is a place where the peace that is in Nature filters through us like sunlight under the trees.... It is not difficult to achieve: you just have to look inside yourself and have a pure (clean) heart.

Having a pure or clean heart isn't the same as having a clean conscience. Many times it is said that a clean conscience is one that has never been used. To have a clean or pure heart is something else all together. Like the Spring cleaning it is something that has to be done regularly. Let the fresh air into your heart, get rid of all the cobwebs hanging there, let go of all your old grievances and regrets, let the sunshine into your heart.
This lovely book, illustrated by the Italian artist Angela Albera, is the story of a lazy pixie called Bramble, Prunello in Italian, who doesn't want to spring clean his house. He gets lost and learns lots of invaluable lessons while finding his way back home.

Il Folletto Pigro by Angela Albera

The Lazy Pixie, by Angela Albera has been translated into English., a lovely tale of friendship and getting lost and found again.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Suspended in time

It must have taken some years for this tree to grow out of the wall

Many a day tripper has seen this sight as they made their way home
The setting sun is a delight for anyone anywhere
Olive trees can live for thousands of years
An olive grove is always a peaceful place to be
The ancient Romans would have enjoyed this same view
Sometimes when we go somewhere for the day, somewhere touristy where people go for pleasure like a lake or a river or the sea,it feels like I m suspended in time. I feel like I've entered a parellel world, a sort of Happyland. There are many places like this all over the world. There is no obvious industry or signs of the wheels that keep the country going. Everyone seems to be there with companions of their choice doing pleasurable things, from merely sitting chatting in a cafe to whizzing across the water on skis or flying through the air on some sort of contraption. People have been enjoying these places for leisure for centuries.Some views have probably hardly changed at all since Roman times.Tourist spots seem to me to be happy islands where weekday worries are firmly pushed aside. The trees, the ruins and some of the buildings have seen many people pass through , lightening their burdens with good company and getting comfort from being together knowing that everyone is there to have a good time.The photos I took today show the timelessness of these places.
Lakes,the sea, rivers are all places we gravitate towards on a sunny day

Olive tree trunks can form very interesting shapes

Friday, 28 March 2014

Eton mess

Eton mess, tastes delicious, a weekend treat
For years I struggled to make the meringue case for a Pavlova, the dessert of meringue, raspberries, strawberries and fresh whipped cream,that was made especially for the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. Now there is no need, hurray,because on menus in Britain you will often find a dessert called Eton mess.
It is named after Eton College the famous Public school near Windsor. Eton mess is more or less a Pavlova in a mess . I wonder if the boys messed their Pavlova's around and so someone had this great idea.
Here is the recipe
Homemade or good quality shop- bought meringues,3 or 4 per person
4 punnets of raspberries or strawberries or a mixture of both
3 tablespoons of brandy - optional
200ml double cream - whipped
Icing sugar- sifted
almonds- optional

Reserve a few raspberries or strawberries for decoration, roughly chop up the remainder, put into a bowl and sprinkle over the icing sugar and brandy if using.
Chill for 1-2 hours. Carefully fold together with the whipped cream. Crush the meringues and fold into the strawberry mixture. Pile into an attractive dish and decorate with the reserved raspberries or strawberries.
Cream, raspberries and meringues,

a pretty bowl makes it look more appealing

Spring Forward

Pink and white blossom add splashes of colour to the countryside

Wild flowers
This weekend we put the clocks forward an hour and so it will really feel  that Spring has arrived .I love this time of year . There is so much colour in the countryside, big fluffy splashes of white and pink blossom dotted about in the hedgerows and woods, the bright sunlight dappling the grass and the buds slowly unfurling on the trees. Today the air was especially clear and terse and it was a great pleasure to breathe deeply.The sky was beautiful , clear and blue and there was a spectacular sunset. All day long I was aware of the birdsong sounding so happy to be back, and tonight the stars sparkle and twinkle .

sun shining through the still bare trees

It is on days like this, when all of Nature seems to be working in such harmony that you feel might have inspired this lovely poem by Robert Browning

The year's at the spring,
And the day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing,
the snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven-
All's right with the world!

a beautiful sunset at the end of a lovely spring day

Everything stops for tea

Tea time , an original watercolour by Little Lou

My favourite tea at the moment
My lovely mum had  a rich variety of ways of letting you know that she would like a cup of tea .  My favourites were 'Don't you just love the sound the kettle makes when it's boiling ?' "Isn't it a lovely sight to see the clock pointing to 4-o-clock?" "Would YOU like a cup of tea?" . My hisband couldn't understand why she just didn't ask "Could you please make me a cup of yea?'. But she didn't and it would have spoiled the fun.Tea breaks were a very important part of factory life, they had to be fought for and were very precious. As my Dad got old he often said "all I want is someone to make me a cup of tea." It is now an established fact that a strong cup of sweet tea helps when someone is in a state of shock .
Tea has caused problems in the past , like with The Boston Tea party . Lots of songs have been written about tea time and even though now it seems more coffee is consumed in Britain  as in Italy,lit is often just what I need in the middle of the afternoon. So whether I m drinking builders tea in a mug or in a china cup it s always a drink that makes me feel at home and is a great excuse for a sit- down and a good natter.
Tea for two

Thursday, 27 March 2014

A quote for every day and always

The other day someone close to me told me their very favourite quote . It was a very good one. Everything you ever wanted is the other side of your fear. I love quotes and one- liners however corny they are . One of the nicest things about Baci Perugine is reading the quotes, which are often romantic as they should be, coming with Baci ,kisses. Quotes can be an inspiration and often one short sentence contains more than a book.
My favourite quote , the one that never lets me down and is appropriate for every occasion, when I feel insecure,when I am lost or afraid,when I feel someone doesn't like me, when I'm scared or feel alone, when I feel rejected , is by St. John  of the Cross.
Where you do not find love,put love- and then you will find love.
Not always easy but works every time.

Swans forming a heart on a wedding anniversary card

Dastardly dictations

Reading Ithaca reminded my husband of the first time he went to Britain to study English. He was about fifteen and in the first lesson the teacher dictated a poem called Cargoes by John Masefield. He failed miserably, which is understandable.Perhaps the teacher thought they were a bunch of cocky so- and-sos who needed to be taken down a peg or two. It seemed quite a different approach from mine to teaching. My motto has always been to make sure everyone leaves my lessons having learnt something new and feeling good about themselves.Now I come to think about it though I did once use a similar technique. On my first teaching practise I had a class of unruly seven year olds , they wouldn't listen to a word I said and the class was constantly in uproar. I struggled to give them a spelling test, they just carried on laughing and fooling around. "Right now everybody I want you to spell earthquake",I tried to make myself heard. Thirty pairs of eyes stared at me in total dismay ."We can't spell earthquake , " the leader of the pack informed me ."Well that's what I'm here for , so that you can", I beamed warmly. Silence reigned , you could hear a pin drop . Order was restored and I was the boss.

John Masefield was the poet laureate that succeeded Robert Bridges. After a tragic start in life his aunt sent him off to sea at age 13 because she thought he spent too much time reading. Ironically he had more time than ever to read while at sea and one of his best loved poems is Sea Fever

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying,

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over
Cargoes, not the easiest test with which to start an English lesson

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Memories are made of this

A few weeks ago I read that our memories are like pieces of a puzzle and we each compose them in our own way. This seems to be why we can take part in the same event as someone else but each one will remember it differently. In the song by Maurice Chevalier, as Gigi this is a good example.
Often our memory can play tricks on us. My mum told me so much about her childhood that I feel as though I went to Burnham Beeches in a Charabanc with her, together we walked along the cliffs at Sidmouth in Devon, I suffered great distress with her when the telegram arrived telling her that her brother was missing in action. Of course I can't have been there but  it is all very real in my imagination. I feel part of it.
My husband bought me a book by Iris Murdoch. She suffered from Alzheimer's late in life and it must have been terrible. Anyone who has had anything to do with loved ones who have lost their memories knows how tragic and devastating it is. What are we without are memories? Where does that person go? I think they must be waiting in the wings somewhere, all their memories sort of on hold.
"Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you" sang Simon and Garfunkel.

My husband relies a lot on my memory for facts, he is better at remembering faces. Sometimes my memory lets me down. Yesterday he asked me the name of the hotel we stayed at in the Cotswold's last year. Complete blank. I could however remember arriving at sundown and having drinks on the terrace with our friends, the stunning view of the Forest of Dean, the array of Victoria sponges to celebrate the birthday girl called Victoria, the beautiful walk to the Beacon, the drive through the Cotswolds and stopping at a very pretty pub in one of the most charming villages I had ever seen, but the name of the hotel escapes me. One of my favourite "Family favourites" songs was Dean Martin's "Memories are made of this", along with Perry Como, Magic Moments and all the glorious happy music of the fifties.

Sunshine on Leith and Still Life

Whenever I am in a shop in England that sells DVD s I cannot resist anything that has lots of stars on the cover and promises to be a real treat, superb, feel-good or such like. So I pounced on "Sunshine on Leith" to bring back to Italy with me as part of my readjustment programme from one culture to another. It promised to be the next "Mamma Mia". Now I love "Mamma Mia", although I would never have admitted to liking Abba way back in the 70s. I have spent many a happy afternoon watching "Mamma Mia" with my little grand-daughter, she was always sound asleep by the time we listened to "I have a dream". It's not so easy to watch it with her now that she is older, because she wants to know what dot dot dot means, and why Sophia doesn't know which man is her father.
Sunshine on Leith is a story written around thirteen songs by The Proclaimers and we really enjoyed it. Light-hearted relief and all that.
Still life was part of our cineforum programme, which tends to show films that not many people want to see. We had heard lots of positive comments about Still Life, but no-one had told us the ending...
These two films at first glance might not appear to have a lot in common, but to me they were both about our need to love and be loved and forgiveness.
These essential human needs that poets seem to deal with all the time.
I like this little verse about forgiveness by Robert Burns

Where with intention I have erred,
No other plea I have,
But Thou art good, and goodness still
Delighteth to forgive

Although it is still March, this poem that likens the effect April showers have on plants to that which love has on human beings, seems appropriate

Deeds from love, and words that flow,
Foster like kind April showers,
In the warm sun all things grow
Wholesome fruits and pleasant flowers
All so thrive his gentle rays
Whereon human love displays
Thomas Campion

Oranges and lemons

Always have lemons in the kitchen

Mandarini tree, but the fruit needs the sunshine to taste sweet
It is a common sight in Northern Italy to see lorries selling oranges from the South of Italy . It is well- known that Southern Italians are full of life and vigour so maybe eating oranges can account for that . The lorries overflowing with boxes of oranges are certainly a cheerful sight. Yesterday I saw a lorry load of otanges bearing the sign Allegria e simpatia tengono lontano la gelosia , which means - cheerfulness and friendliness keep jealousy away . What that has to do with oranges I'm not sure but it sounds good. We 're told that we should eat lots of oranges here in Italy and they certainly are worth it .Large nets of oranges and mandarini are on sale in the supermarkets all winter. We have a mandarino tree on our balcony which is over ten years old and happily survivres the cold frosty weather , unlike our poor lemon tree. Mandarini, clementine, satsumas, oranges,tangerines all have one thing in common , they are ... Orange.
One of my favourite nursery rhymes was Oranges and Lemons. I can still see my mum and the other mums all holding hands to make an arch and running under their archway so I didn't get caught . I still love it and thinking of all the bells of London.
Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St. Clements
I owe you five farthings
Say the bells of St. Martins
When will you pay me
Say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich
Say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be?
Say thr bells of Stepney
That I don't know
Says the great bell of Bow

Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head . If you are born within the sound of the great bell of Bow you can consider yourself a true Cockney.
Boxes of oranges to make fresh orange juice every morning

A bit of light relief

After what my cousin said about my blog, I decided I needed to get some more opinions. I asked my brother to read a couple of my posts. I value his opinion and know he'll tell it like it is. He had already told me that he didn't have time to read it, and would rather talk to me That's great because he's my brother.Anyway I asked him if  my blog seemed superficial, and his answer was immediate and comforting." Not superficial at all," he said," light-hearted ". well that's OK, light-hearted is what I want. There is plenty of the other stuff around, you just have to look at the teletext, watch the news, visit someone in hospital, have health worries,and so on. We could all make each other's hearts break with tales of misery and woe..Like a lot of us I was very young when I learnt that life can be tragically sad. My blog is meant to be reassuring and give some light relief, so my brother's comment was just what I needed. It usually is. These are the things that I don't want in my blog,superficial, smug, pretentious, depressing, unkind,arrogant,negative, etc things, quite the opposite, and hope anyone looking for light relief and comfort will find it here. Actually my cousin was worried about me baring myself too much and getting hurt, but I'm not writing my autobiography and although I have always had a tendency to over- share there isn't anything in my posts that I wouldn't happily say in a coffee bar, and that's what they are, coffee bar chats.

I think here is some good advice for anyone who takes themselves too seriously:

Ecclesiastes,  Be not righteous over much,  neither make thyself over wise, lest thou destroy thyself.

Watching the can-can must have provided a lot of light relief over the years

Hobbies that heal

Glancing quickly at the main titles on the on-line newspapers this morning I saw that Knitting is good for depression. My Dad couldn't stand knitting, he thought it seemed a huge waste of time. That was probably because it used to take me about three months to make a jumper that wasn't anything special, and often shrunk in the wash. All those hours of work to make something you could buy for the equivalent of two hours work. There are many gifted knitters who can whip something up in no time that looks amazing, I'm just not one of them. One of my aunties is still knitting clothes for the premature baby unit at her local hospital, she is well into her eighties, and is doing a great job.
Anyway if it helps depression to knit then that's wonderful. It definitely helps to have something to do, if you have depression and I suppose with knitting then at least you've got something to show at the end. Depression would seem to be a modern concern and a lot is written about it. We have to be careful to distinguish between depression and a deep. deep sadness. I'm going to give you two poems that would make you think that the link between depression and having something to do has been around a long time. The first one was a favourite of my Mum's, she liked to say,"Oh, he's got the hump", when someone was in a bad mood, always flowed by a giggle.

The Hump, by Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

The camel's hump is an ugly hump
Which well you might see at the zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump that we get
From having too little to do.

Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo
If we haven't enough to do-oo-oo
We get the hump-
Camelious hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

We climb out of bed with a frouzly head,
And a snarly-yarly voice.
We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl
At our bath and our boots and our toys;

And there ought to be a corner for me
(And I know there is one for you)
When we get the hump-
Camelious hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frown with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;

And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
Have lifted the hump-
The horrible hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

I get it as well as you-oo-oo
If I haven't enough to do-oo-oo
We all get hump-
Camelious hump
Kiddies and grown-ups too!

Then there is this one, by the poet Robert Bridges, 1844-1930

Since health our toil rewards
And strength is labour's prize,
I hate not nor despise,
The work my lot accords,
Nor fret with fears unkind
The tender joys, that bless
My hard-won peace of mind
In hours of idleness.

Both of these poems are telling us about the importance of having something to do, and they talk about gardening as a great antidote for humps, bad moods or depression. Housework probably does as well, and of course knitting...



Spring Flowers by Norman Rockwell

On the front cover of Woman's Weekly

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Today  we received a beautiful letter through the post. Since the advent of emails it is now known as snail mail but ironically is faster than ever, sometimes letters can take a mere two days from Italy to England compared to the up- to- a month in days of yore. Enclosed in the letter was a copy of "Ithaka" as a wish list . I 'd like to share it because I can think of lots of you who would like it.

Ithaka- C.P.Cavathy

As you set out for Ithaka
Hope your road is a long one,
Full of adventure, full of discovery,
Angry Poseidon- don't be afraid of them,
You'll never find things like that on your way
As long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
As long as a rare excitement
Stirs your spirit and your body.
Wild Poseidon- you won't encounter them
Unless you bring them along inside your soul,
Unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
With your pleasure, what joy,
You enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
May you stop at Phoenician trading stations
To buy fine things,
Mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
Sensual perfume of every kind-
As many sensual perfumes as you can;
And may you visit many Egyptian cities
To learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
So you're old by the time you reach the island,
Wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey,
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
You'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

(Translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Wisdom knowledge and 5-a day

One of my favourite quick meals is tomato risotto. It's one of those recipes that I make ad occhio the Italian way . No weights and measures, just throwing it together . I start off frying an onion and then adding chopped cherry tomatoes and letting it all settle down. Then I put in a good fistful of rice per person and stir it all well. Next add stock or hot water and salt and pepper to taste. You can add a sponnful of tomato puree to make it more tomatoey.When it is cooked add a pinch of basil, a knob of butter and some grated cheese . Scatter over some lightly toasted pine nuts and more grated cheese. Today I served it with salad , beetroot and some ham. Afterwards have a bowl of fruit handy and you have had your 5 a day.
In Britain I noticed lots of food products in the supermarket have written on them if they are one or more of your 5 -a-day. They have to be as different and varied as possible and more vegetables than fruit. Two glasses of orange juice is still just one because they have to be different.

While I was chopping the tomatoes I thought of one of those one- line philosophy sayings that someone famous once said and I can't remember who.
To describe the difference between knowledge and wisdom he said "Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in your fruit salad.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Welcome surprises


The most wonderful thing about going away, is coming back and the way your loved ones' faces light up when they see you again. Even the baby stretched out her arms for a welcoming embrace. The cat was so overwhelmed she hid under a cushion to hide her emotion.
This morning on the balcony there was a lovely surprise , four beautiful camelias. My gardening skills are not exactly honed to perfection and what blooms on the balcony from year to year is rather haphazard, so it was a great delight to see them there on my return. While I sipped my coffee and admired them I thought of Alexandre Dumas and his La dama delle camelie, how much I enjoyed Moulin Rouge with Ewan Mc Gregor and Nicole Kidman, how wonderful it was to see La Traviata in Verona and the beautiful sunset on the way there,and that there is an island on Lake Maggiore that is famous for its splendid display of camelias.
always nice to see on the door

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Rules for dressing

No- one would deny that Italians are in a class of their own when it comes to fashion and design.  The French could join them in the chic stakes . Both nations seem to have an innate ability to look groomed and co- ordinated at all times. There's always seems to be something not quite right about my outfits..However I do have a weakness  for British menswear. Perhaps it's the masculine feel of the cloth , the cut or the earthy smell of tweed or maybe just the reassuring memories men's clothing brings back of my Dad. Fact is I often buy my husband clothes in England. So there I was in a Men's outfitters chatting to the Irish proprietor with his French wife, buying clothes for an Italian man, in England. We both agreed that it is important to take care when buying clothes, not to have too many and to have overflowing wardrobes. He said the world can only cope with so many old clothes,, we must think about how to dispose of them just like glass, paper etc without harming the environment. Lots of shops are re-cycling clothes, old bras can be used  as insulation for roofs, he told me, not sure if he was pulling my leg here.
There was a sign up in the shop with something that Hardy Amis said about men and their clothes. I think it's true for us women too .

Sunday specials

Insalata Tricolore
This is always a firm favourite in our house and brightens up any meal

Whipped cream, strawberries, raspberries and demerera sugar, what's not to like?
My sister- in- law makes the most delicious desserts and one of our favourites is her Fruit of the Forest crème brulée . She insists it is really easy, just fruits of the forest covered with a mixture of Greek yoghurt and whipped double cream, sprinkled with a thick layer of demerera sugar and caramelized under a hot grill. Today I tried to make it for my daughter- in-law , a slightly different version, using the ingredients I had in the fridge.

Strawberries, washed and hulled and sliced
Raspberries , carefully washed
Spread them on the bottom of an oven- proof dish in a thick layer and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Whip 800ml fresh cream until stiff and spoon over the fruit mixture to cover.
Sprinkle a thick layer of demerera sugar over the top and then put under a very hot grill  for about 5 minutes. Then put it in the fridge for 2 hours.

It was a great success but didn't look quite like my sister- in- law's owing to the grill part of the procedure. I' m thinking of buying a blow torch ... My son said I could just call it something else...
Fruits of the forest crème brulèe, a perfect dessert for Sunday lunch